Challenge/Prompt: psych_30 #27. Catharsis & fanfic100 025. Strangers
Word Count: 2000
Spoilers: 4x20 Taxi & the arc leading to it.
Copyright: Title is an awesome song by The Feeling.
Summary: “I thought you might want someone to talk to.”
Author’s Notes: It’s not like Lindsay/Reed is an OTP of mine or anything, ‘cause ew, but I got the bunny and it wouldn’t let go so I wrote it. And Stella assured me Reed is 23 so at least I’m not going to the underage illegal hell place. Which is nice.
You feel cold, and you feel so low
Just the same as I.
Even though the Cabbie Killer is locked away and therefore isn’t going to go around killing people and then maiming them any more, there’s still a sharp edge in the department. Mac seems to spend every spare second in the hospital with Reed Garrett, who isn’t his son but, when you get right down to it, might as well be. Stella silently worries, Flack still seems to be beating himself up over not getting the killer quickly enough (even though it’s been proven that it wasn’t the Cabbie Killer he was chasing after anyway) and Lindsay and Danny are doing this tiresome dance of two steps forward one step back.
He loves her; but Lindsay doesn’t know what to do with that, so she backs away and ignores it until she can process it properly.
Curious, in spite of herself, Lindsay ends up reading Reed’s blog. The self-assured journalism, the get your scoop right here and nowhere but here ‘cause I’ve got all the facts posts disintegrating entirely after his kidnapping. The shaken frightened words of a young man watching a serial killer work and knowing that the same fate probably awaited him. There are clues slipped in to tell Mac where he was, but the other words are raw and true and Linday’s fingers slip on the keys of her laptop.
When Reed is finally released from hospital he still comes to see Mac at work, staying clear away from the cases because apparently journalism holds no appeal for him at the moment. Lindsay can hardly blame him; being almost killed is either the making of you or breaks you completely. She still hasn’t quite worked out what her near-death experience at fourteen did to her.
There’s rain on the sidewalks on the day she finally decides to act. She’s finishing her shift just as Mac starts his, and Reed is walking out of the building having come to work with Mac. Lindsay watches him balk at a taxi cab, water plastering his hair to his head, and decides that, good idea or not, she’ll see what she can do for him.
“Hey, Reed,” she says, holding her large black umbrella up again to protect both of them. He frowns at her for a moment, and then he seems to remember where he knows her from.
She smiles at him with the most innocent look she can manage; even from a distance, she’s noticed that Reed is jumpy around everyone. It’s to be expected; she didn’t manage eye contact for eight months after her friends were killed, just stared at people’s shoes and muttered monosyllabic replies.
“Do you want to go for a coffee?” she asks, trying a sympathetic smile.
Reed hesitates; then seems to realise that even if she does want to abduct him and attempt to kill him, it would be tricky for her to do it in public. Or at all, really, since he’s taller and almost definitely stronger than her.
“Sure,” he replies, voice soft but willing enough.
They head for the nearest Starbucks. The roads are crowded with taxicabs, smears of yellow, and New York City is putting itself back together again. Lindsay really loves her adopted home city, and is glad that the fear is edging back off the streets. She doesn’t want to see it panicking and cracking ever again.
Reed is quiet, head bent over a grande latte, and Lindsay sips at a tall mocha and gives him time to get used to her. It’s been a long shift and her feet are killing her, but she thinks she can help. A little empathy can go a long way, and Mac knows many things but never how to play the victim. He’s too strong, too solid, too determined; he doesn’t understand the overwhelming terror that curls itself up under your skin and doesn’t know how to undo itself again.
“Why are you doing this?” Reed asks eventually, looking out at Lindsay from under heavy eyelids. He’s scuffing the toe of one converse hightop against the floor; combined with his torn jeans and baggy sweater, he looks too young for all this. His wet hair curls as it begins to dry, and he worries a chapped lower lip between his teeth.
“I thought you might want someone to talk to,” she replies, resisting the urge to toy with a coffee stirrer, deliberately remaining calm. Projecting the emotion she wants Reed to feel; she learned that one a long time ago.
“I don’t know you,” Reed points out. He doesn’t sound at all hostile; it’s more a simple statement of fact.
Lindsay shrugs. “Exactly.” When Reed frowns, she adds: “Sometimes it helps to talk to someone you barely know. And you and I both know that Mac can’t empathise the way you want him to.”
Reed blinks a few times, then shrugs. “And you think you know how I feel, do you?”
Lindsay stands her ground. “Yes,” she replies.
Reed looks almost angry; he’s got a thick scarf wound around his neck to hide the scars. The remains of a Leviticus verse or perhaps just brutal slashes from a man who knew the game was up but refused to quite admit it.
“So you know what it’s like to be shut in a car trunk and have a dead woman thrown in on top of you?” he demands, almost petulantly, managing to keep his tone low enough that no one turns around to stare.
“No,” Lindsay says, careful not to patronise him. “But I know what it’s like to listen to your friends die and then sit in a diner drenched with their blood for half an hour before you call the police because you’re so scared the killer is going to come back and finish the job.”
Reed flicks his coffee mug with his thumbnail. “It’s not the same,” he mumbles at last.
“No,” Lindsay agrees. “But it’s a start.”
Reed considers this, sipping more coffee, and Lindsay watches the rain against the windows. In the background, the jazzy, inoffensive Starbucks music creates a soft baseline for the hum of chatter and the drenched customers bickering with the barista. She feels calm, so much calmer than when she tried to talk to Danny about Reuben and had it pushed back in her face because he couldn’t deal with anyone talking about his honest mistake.
“I dream about it,” Reed confesses. “All the time. I can see him and…” He trails off, pushing a hand back through his messy hair.
“It’s natural,” Lindsay replies. “The trick is to remember that he can’t hurt you, not any more. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but believe me; it is.”
Reed narrows his bruised-looking eyes at her. “They didn’t find him, did they?” he asks softly, meeting her gaze for a moment and then shifting away.
“They did eventually,” Lindsay replies. It’s not a conversation she’s ever had with Danny; she always wanted him to see her as Montana, light and happiness and competence, not the little girl wreck who used to hide under the stairs wrapped in her daddy’s coat because then maybe, just maybe, The Man wouldn’t find her. “It took over a decade.”
“Right.” Reed nods. He’s not prepared to empathise yet and that’s fine too; Lindsay isn’t saying these things because she wants him to feel sorry for her. She just wants to point out that these things do happen to people and it is just about possible to work through them. If you hope hard enough and try like hell not to look back.
“Like I said, the safety net really does help,” Lindsay replies.
Reed finally smiles, a genuine one that begins to look like the picture in the corner of his blog; the confident, happy Reed who somehow thought that journalism was about maintaining a safe distance. You can’t stay behind glass; it never works.
“Hey,” Lindsay says, finishing her coffee, “One day you’ll have a great job and a nice apartment and a gorgeous boyfriend who screws you around ‘cause he doesn’t know what he wants and parents who still call more often than they should because they’re convinced that you’re still going to have some kind of breakdown. And then you’ll be happy and the past won’t matter any more.”
“Is it working for you?” Reed asks.
Lindsay thinks about it for a moment. “Most of the time.”
Reed’s hand brushes almost unconsciously against the side of his woollen scarf, and Lindsay doesn’t ask about what it hides. She’s heard from Stella, over several dry martinis, about Stella trying to hold Reed’s neck together so that he wouldn’t bleed out. Sometimes, Lindsay thinks that Stella isn’t as ok as she thinks she is about the boy who was stalking her turning out to be Mac’s nearly-son and then practically dying in her arms.
It’s funny, the things life throws at you. Or tragic, but that’s not a thought to have when tired and steeped in caffeine and with a guy who was almost murdered a fortnight ago sitting opposite you.
“I’d better be going,” Reed admits, addressing his fingernails and with a semi-awkward smile tugging the corners of his mouth.
“Yeah,” Lindsay agrees.
They walk out together and the rain is getting heavier. It flattens Lindsay’s hair straight to her head the minute she walks out the door, but the cold water is exactly what she needs after opening up her box of memories yet again.
“Did I help?” she asks quietly.
“I think so,” Reed replies.
Lindsay impulsively hugs him, because that’s what you do when you make an emotional connection with someone, however small it is. There, in the rain, they hold each other for a minute because there’s mutual recognition and sometimes that’s all you can ask. And when Reed turns his head and his coffee-tasting lips touch hers Lindsay understands completely. When you get emotionally injured that badly it’s sometimes hard to tell what feelings you have and what feelings you don’t have and what they mean; just for these few seconds she’s weak enough to remember the way her usually peppy exterior can cave in at just the wrong word or the memory of blood glittering on linoleum.
It’s a kiss in the rain and it isn’t romantic because it’s too cold and wet and she can feel Reed shaking and anyway, he’s Reed. Mac’s nearly-son.
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs, pulling away. Reed lets her, which is a good sign; pieces of him are starting to come back together. “Mac would…” Lindsay is about to say murder me but changes her choice of words at the last minute and changes it to: “Give me that really disapproving look that means he’s secretly angry but he won’t say anything.”
Reed catches his lower lip between his teeth in a way that tells her he knows what she nearly said, but he doesn’t call her up on it.
Lindsay considers opening her umbrella, but she’s already soaking wet. All she wants to do now is go home, sink into a hot bath, and read that book she’s been meaning to read for months but hasn’t because she’s been distracted with work and Danny. She wants to remind herself, tonight, that she’s completely and utterly normal.
“Do you want to share a cab?” she asks carefully. “I mean, can you, or-”
“Today I think I want to walk,” Reed tells her, tilting his head back to look at the grey sky. He seems to be hesitating over something. “Do you… think we could do this again sometime? Coffee, I mean.”
Lindsay smiles. “Yeah. We could.”
They look at each other uncomfortably for a long moment, then nod and walk their separate ways. Ten steps away, Lindsay looks over her shoulder, and finds Reed looking back at her. They both burst out laughing and then keep walking. Sometimes, just for a minute, it’s about finding a connection with someone who understands.